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Tips: treating and preventing saddle sores

I recently rode two endurance mountain bike races,  a technical 60-miler and a 24 Hour race. Both races taught me valuable lessons in pacing, nutrition and comfort. They also showed me just how painful saddle sores can be. This led to me write the following column for the Cascade Courier:

Women Ride: Let’s talk about the things you don’t want to ask your mechanic

Today’s topic: saddle sores.

Most people on bikes – whether you’re a commuter or randonneur – will probably experience saddle sores at some point.

While there are many theories out there on what saddle sores actually are –infected hair follicles, cysts, boils –one thing is for certain:  they’re a total nuisance and not to mention painful. Luckily, they are somewhat preventable and 90 percent of the time, treatable at home.

I’m by no means a medical expert but I do spend a lot of time in the saddle. As such, I can tell you from experience that saddle sores are largely caused by chaffing. You are as likely to get them from an hour spin in jeans as you are from a long day in chamois.

The best treatment for saddle sores is preventing them. A few simple steps can diminish your chance of getting them:

–          Get a proper bike fit. If you’re reaching for your pedals, you’re creating more chaffing and more pressure on your sit bones. Likewise when you’re sitting too low. Also make sure your saddle isn’t titled too far up or done.

–          Get a good saddle. There are entire books written on what makes a good saddle but when it really comes down to it, it’s personal. However, I recommend women try a women’s saddle and to not ride whatever saddle the bike came with. Usually these stock saddles are fine for a mile or 20 but any more time spent on it gets uncomfortable. Also, be sure to break in a saddle before taking it out on a six-hour adventure. (Learned that the hard way…)

–          Chamois creme. They make it for a reason. You won’t need it for short commutes but I highly recommend using chammy creme for longer rides. Beljum Budder, Udderly Smooth, DZ Nuts all make good chamois crèmes but personally, I like the for-women-by-women Hoo Ha Ride Glide (despite the name).

–          Wear padded cycling shorts for longer rides. And in case no one has told you yet: NO UNDERWEAR. This is probably the number one mistake new riders make and also the main cause of friction and chaffing.

–          In fact, avoid any bottoms with apparent seams.

–          Take off your chammies as soon as possible. Hygiene is key. Get out of your cycling clothes as soon as possible.

–          Increase mileage gradually.

Self-treatment:

–          Clean with hot water after the ride. Soak for a while if you can.

–          Use antibiotic ointments such as Neosporin to aid healing. Diaper-rash ointments can help as well.

–          Go commando. Skip the underwear while sleeping that evening (and the next). Drying out the infected area speeds up the healing process.

–          Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing.

–          Give it a break. Take a few days off the bike to let it heal.

–          If you must ride, wear a clean, different pair of padded shorts and/or try to switch up the saddle. Limit the time in the saddle and slather on the chamois creme.

–          If the problem persists or the sores are infected, go see your doctor for prescription antibiotics.

Hope these tips help! Please email me your questions at amrook@cascadebicycleclub.org and I’ll answer them unanimously, here.

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